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Sense of hope wraps around Pope Francis

The reactions began almost the moment Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio stepped to the front of the window balcony of St. Peter Basilica as Pope Francis.

The 76-year-old cardinal from Buenos Aires was analyzed from almost every perspective - his Jesuit heritage, his Latin American connection, his Italian roots, his views on the poor and other issues, his place in the College of Cardinals and his runner-up finish to Pope Benedict eight years ago,

The new pope's simple approach to living - from his own apartment to riding the bus to work to cooking his own meals to opting out of some of the dress and procedural traditions of the papacy - also has been dissected and discussed in the church, the news media and in the pews.

Fellow cardinals and Jesuits, bishops from around the world, leaders of other religions and politicians from almost every country weighed in with some congratulatory message and comments about the new pope's past and his new role. While many of those messages were different in specifics, they had a common tone - one that's often connected with change in leadership, but one that's at an especially high level with Pope Francis - a tone of hope.

But what is even more significant is that sense of hope appears to be reciprocal. Pope Francis seems to have hope in the people, the people he asked to bless and pray for him before he gave them his blessing, the people he'll be counting on to live out the Gospel as the body of Christ.

Pope Francis, known for his work for and support of the poor, seems to understand that although any efforts at making the church more active in working for the poor might be trumpeted from the Vatican, the real depth of any effort - the real depth of any concern for the poor - needs to start in the pews, with each of us.

Evangelization is much the same. Pope Francis has indicated he'll continue - and perhaps even expand - the church's efforts at the new evangelization, taking steps to bring people to Christ - saints and sinners - no matter what their history. While that message of welcoming, helping, teaching and guiding might be proclaimed from Rome, it, too, must be rooted in the pews, in each of us, growing in our faith and sharing it with others.

So ... we begin Catholic life under a new pope, driven by a sense of hope, and sustained by prayers that Pope Francis' leadership is guided by the Holy Spirit and that our response is filled with that same Spirit.

A FAMILY MEAL?

One of the casualties of our always-on-the-go society is the evening family meal. Whether it's parent work schedules, school activities, church commitments or one sort of team or another for kids or parents, the evening meal - while not extinct, certainly could be considered an endangered species.

But Live Well Omaha Kids, part of Alegent Creighton Health, is teaming up with several other organizations to save the family dinner. The organizations offer a "family dining pledge" program that includes a variety of tips for successful evening family meals - recipes, how to divide cooking and clean-up, even a recommendation to ban all screens (television, computer, phone and others) from the table and dining area.

That last suggestion would be a significant step for many families. But think of the benefits - a chance to really connect with the people who mean the most, with time not only for eating, but general conversation, family prayer, faith sharing and more.

While the program might be based on a pledge, it sounds more like a formula for a stronger family. Why not give it a try? To learn more, visit livewellomahakids.org.

Deacon Randy A. Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice and can be contacted at ragrosse@archomaha.org.

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